One of my pastoral heroes taught me this: celebrate the church you’re privileged to pastor. Stand up on Sunday and communicate, genuinely, that it is the privilege of your life to be their pastor. Tell them that you’ve been waiting all week, and you can’t believe that you get to be with them.
A pastor who believes this can’t help but love that congregation. That love will probably be enough to transform that church, at least a little.
It’s true, too: every pastor is privileged to be entrusted with that charge. Paul’s words are true for all of us: “ I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service” (1 Timothy 1:12), even though he had every reason to pass us over. Pastoring is a privilege we don’t deserve.
Enjoy Your Imperfect Church Now
We miss out on enjoying the church we get to enjoy because we long for more. As Ecclesiastes reminds us, we spend a lot of energy striving for more. Sometimes we even get it, only to discover that what we’ve grasped is like a vapor.
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)
The Preacher reminds us: enjoy God’s gifts now. Don’t wait until you get a better church. Find enjoyment in your work as a pastor right now, in your present circumstances. Accept your lot, and rejoice in the work he’s given you. Don’t wait until COVID is gone or your church improves. Enjoy your church now.
Life is hard and short, the Preacher says, but God can still keep you occupied with joy. Don’t let the imperfections of your church, or the hard things you experience, rob you of the privilege of enjoying the people God has given you to love. Look for the good and celebrate it. Don’t forget to enjoy what God has given you.
Let Them Know It
Paul sets a high bar of gratitude. He keeps telling churches how thankful he is for them. “I give thanks to my God always for you” (1 Corinthians 1:4). “I do not cease to give thanks for you” (Ephesians 1:16). “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3). “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you” (Colossians 1:3). “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
Something happens when a church knows that its pastor loves them and is thankful for them. You can’t fake it. But when it’s real and communicated, the culture of the church starts to change.
I used to think that critiquing would help my church. Find what’s wrong, and let them know about it. I’ve learned that the best thing a pastor can do is to realistically assess the strengths and weaknesses of the church, and then major in loving that church and letting them know what a privilege it is to pastor them. Work on the weaknesses when appropriate, but always in the context of love.
We’re in a tough season. Many of us are weary. Some of us want to give up. Don’t miss out on the blessings that God is giving us even in this tough season. Gratitude in the middle of hardship, even for imperfect churches, may be exactly what we need. What a privilege we have to love and shepherd people who matter so much to our Lord.
Open your Bible to the 15th chapter of John’s gospel: John, chapter 15. This would be our third message in the opening 11 verses of this chapter. It certainly would be possible to go faster than we are, but this is such a very foundational and definitive text. I know many of you have been in our church for a long time. You’ve walked with the Lord a long time; you’re knowledgeable in the Scripture. But for new believers, for those who have just come to know Christ who are beginning to understand the Scripture, and for those maybe on the outside looking in saying, “I’m trying to figure out what Christianity is,” this is a very critical portion of Scripture. So I’ve slowed down the train a little bit here in the 15th chapter because I want you to understand this. This is a very definitive chapter: particularly, these opening 11 verses.
And just to kind of remind you where we are, when we come into John 13, we come to the Passover on Thursday night of Passion Week and, of course, Christ is crucified on Friday. So this is the last night before His crucifixion, and He celebrates the Passover with the 12 disciples. And at that Passover meal – which strings out late into that very night – and during a subsequent walk after they left the upper room and headed for the garden where they would be called to pray with Him, and where He would be arrested and then taken to a false trial and crucified the next day – all of those hours that He spent with these men were critical hours for Him to deposit promises to them. Thirteen to sixteen of John’s gospel is the composite account of all that He promised to them, and to us as well. There’s nothing like it in Scripture. It is the most wonderful, rich legacy of Jesus to His own beloved people.
But there was that night a stark reality of the presence of a false disciple, a hypocrite, who had not yet been discovered by the other 11 disciples. The Lord had always known about Judas, but the others had not. In fact, there were no apparent reasons given by Judas, either in his language or behavior, that would indicate to them that he was false, that he would be a defector and an apostate, and walk away and betray Jesus. There were no obvious reasons to believe that he was a tool of Satan, that Satan would actually enter into him and he would go out to perpetrate the sell of the Savior. He was well-embedded among the other 11. And when our Lord said, “One of you will betray Me,” they were all more prone to think it might be them than him. But as this evening goes on, the drama of Judas, of course, unfolds. As you start into this section, go back to chapter 13 for a moment.
On that Thursday night before celebrating the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour, the hour of His death had come, that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the max, and He expresses that love in the legacy of promises that He gives them in these subsequent chapters, through chapter 16, and then the prayer to the Father, in 17, which asks the Father to fulfill all the promises. This is an incredible set of promises wrought out of the love of Christ for His own. But immediately in verse 2 we read, “During supper, the devil, having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him.” We’re just one verse into this incredible evening, and we meet Judas.
Peter asks the Lord a question in verse 9 about washing. “Jesus said to him – ” verse 10 “ – ‘He who as bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.’ For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’”
Down in verse 17, He said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’” And, again, He refers to Judas, the betrayer.
Over in verse 26, “Our Lord answered the question, ‘Who is this betrayer?’ ‘This is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.’ So when he had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, ‘What you do, do quickly.’”
Verse 30 says, “He received the morsel, went out immediately; and it was night.” This is the background to the 15th chapter. So let’s look at the opening 11 verses of chapter 15, and you will see in what our Lord says here: two kinds of branches, two kinds of disciples – those who remain and bear fruit and those who leave and are burned. And in the background is Judas.
Our Lord says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You’re already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” He could say that, by the way, because Judas was gone. The remaining 11 were clean.
And then He instructs them, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he’s thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
We’re talking about abiding in Christ, and we’re looking at this very graphic illustration metaphor word picture. Jesus likens Himself to a vine, and the Father is the one for cares for the vine. As you know, the Father was the one who cared for Jesus. Certainly, He cared for Him at the time of His temptation when He sent angels from heaven to minister to Him. But He met His every need through His incarnation and humiliation. He did only what the Father showed Him to do, told Him to do. He submitted completely to the Father. The Father cared for the true vine.
In the true vine, there are branches. There are branches, according to verse 2, that bear fruit, and there are branches that do not bear fruit. Branches that bear fruit are purged, pruned to bear more fruit. Branches that do not bear fruit are taken away, and verse 6 says, “thrown away, dried up, gathered, cast into the fire and burned.” This leads us to contemplate the question that is essentially referred to in verse 8, “and so prove to be My disciples.”
How do you prove to be a true disciple? How do you prove to be a true disciple? Well, what is the nature of a true relationship to Jesus Christ? What is the nature of that? How do you define that? How are we to understand what it means to be connected to Christ? How are we to understand the spiritual reality of our union with God? What does Scripture say about the Christian’s relationship to the Lord?
Now, this is very, very important, critically important, because in Matthew 7, Jesus said, “Many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, we did this in Your name and that in Your name.’ And I’ll say to them, ‘Depart from Me, I never knew you.’” And He went on in that Sermon on the Mount to conclude by saying, “There are people who will build a religious house on sand; and when judgment comes, it’ll collapse.”
In Matthew 13, a little later, Jesus said, “The seed of the gospel truth will be sown, and some of it will fall into soil that looks like it’s receiving the seed, but it’s rock bed underneath the surface; and so before it can bear any fruit, it withers and dies. And other seed will fall into soil that is full of weeds, and they will choke out the life before it can bear fruit.” And what our Lord is saying is, you need to expect some people to give sort of initial manifestation that they belong to God and belong to Christ.
And then in Matthew 13, the Lord said, “There will be, in the kingdom, wheat, and there will be tares, and it will be very difficult for you to separate them. There will be, in the kingdom, a time when the net is thrown, the dragnet is thrown, and everything in the kingdom is pulled in, and then it has to be sorted out. The kingdom is like a small seed, the mustard seed that becomes a massive bush so big that the birds can make their nests into it,” which is to say the kingdom will be huge, but not necessarily all genuine.
And we live in a time when we see that. When our Lord gave those statements to the disciples, of course, the church hadn’t even been born. And now here we are, and we look at a world where Christianity is massive – at least what claims to be Christianity is massive. There are always going to be false Christians. So the question is: “How do you prove to be a true disciple?” Not only, “How do others know you’re a true disciple?” but more importantly, “How do you know?” This is a critical, critical question, the most critical of all questions to ask; and it is answered here. And we’re going to pick it up at verse 4: “Abide in Me. Abide in Me.” The word “abide” is used ten times in this passage. John uses it again in 1 John 4, 1 John 5 – we may have time to look at those in just a minute.
Abide: I know that is kind of an old word and it sort of has spiritual overtones. It’s simply the Greek verb men, don’t walk away from Christ. Stay; remain. Don’t leave. Don’t defect. Don’t become an apostate. This is His word to the 11 remaining disciples: “Continue to believe. Continue to be faithful.”
This is a call to anyone and everyone who is attached to Christianity and could be in danger of departing. If it happens, 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us because were not of us.” Don’t do that; don’t defect.
Hebrews 10 says, “The severest punishment in hell will belong to those who were close to Christ and turned their back on Him because they trampled underfoot the blood of the covenant and counted it an unholy thing.” If you’re in any sense like Judas, connected to Christianity, don’t walk away. Many had done that. Chapter 6, there was a wholesale exodus of people who were called disciples who walked no more with Him. Judas is no solitary figure, even in the gospel of John, but he is the archetypal defector.
We’ve all lived long enough as Christians probably to have seen someone who professed a faith in Christ turn and walk away. Our Lord says, “Don’t do that. Don’t do that.” And then He gives promises to those who stay. What is the value of abiding? Why should I stay? Well, the passage starting in verse 4 and going down to verse 11 lists a series of promises to those who remain, who stay, and they’re basic.
This is just a basic Bible study, and what I give you this morning, really foundational. This is kind of Christianity 101. The first benefit I told you about last week is salvation, salvation, eternal life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have – ” what? “ – eternal life.”
What is eternal life? It’s not something you’re going to get in the future, it’s something you possess now: “shall have eternal life.” What is eternal life? Eternal life must be the life of God because it can’t be the life of man or any other created being. So eternal life is the life of God. So believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall have life, you shall live. He that has the Son has life. John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
What is salvation? It is having the life of God in you, the eternal life of God. The eternal life of God is not separate from God, and so salvation is stated in that 4th verse in these words: “Abide in Me, and I in you, and I in you.” Or, in verse 5, the abiding branch: “I in him.” “I in you.”
How do you define a Christian? Not somebody who believes something only, although there’s a necessity of believing; not someone who’s connected to sound doctrine, although that’s essential; not someone who belongs to a church, although that certainly is important. The best way to define a Christian is that Christ lives in that person, that he possesses that eternal life which belongs only to God. And we saw that last week, so I won’t take you all through it again. But we saw last week that the Trinity lives in a believer. The Trinity takes up residence in a believer.
Second Corinthians 4:10 says, “The life of Jesus is manifested in our body.” Amazing statement. Listen to 1 John 4, verse 12: “No one has seen God at anytime. If we love one another, God abides in us.” And then verse 13: “He has given us His Spirit.” And then verse 15: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” And then verse 16: “We have come to know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Over and over again.
Same thing in chapter 5, verse 11: “This is the testimony that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” So in that simple area, that category of 1 John that I read to you – bounced around a little in chapter 4 and 5: God is in us, the Spirit is in us, and Christ is in us. Triune God resides in a true believer. If you have a true faith, if you have been granted by God a true, saving faith that will go all the way, as we read in 1 Peter, to glory, to the revelation of Jesus Christ, then you are the dwelling place of the triune God. That’s what it means to be a believer, to be a Christian, and nothing less than that.
The fact that you possess eternal life doesn’t just mean you will live forever. Unbelievers will live forever in a kind of everlasting death. To have eternal life is to have the One who is eternal life. So when somebody asks you, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” you tell them it means that “the triune God of the universe – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – has taken up residence in me.”
Now, you have the responsibility to convince the person that that’s true by the manifestation of God through your life. And that took us to the second thing that we looked at last time, the second promise. The first is salvation; God takes up residence in you. The second is fruitfulness. Verse 4 again: “As a branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine – ” that’s the agricultural illustration, “ – so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” It starts out negative in verse 4, then it becomes positive in verse 5, then it goes back to negative at the end of verse 5. Bottom line: only as you abide in Him and He abides in you can you bear much fruit, much fruit.
This fruit then, according to verse 8, becomes the proof that you’re a disciple. That’s what verse 8 says: “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” So that is the only way we know that we are disciples of Christ that are genuine, that we are branches connected to the vine. Our Lord said on another occasion, “By their fruit, you will know them. A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit. Good tree, good fruit.”
It was John the Baptist, wasn’t it, in the 3rd chapter of Matthew who saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming. They wanted a baptism, and he said to them, “You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore, bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” And then he said, “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore, every tree that doesn’t bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Same language. If you’re a fruitless branch or a fruitless tree, you’re going to be cut down and burned. Bear fruit that manifests, first of all, then, repentance. So let’s talk about what fruit is.
First of all, fruit is genuine repentance, based on Matthew 3:8. Fruit is genuine repentance – a genuine, honest, penitence concerning sin. Sorrow over sin, not sorrow over the consequences of sin. There is that kind of sorrow. But sorrow over the reality of sin. A true and real sorrow over sin – the sorrow of repentance. That, of course, is a very foundational fruit. If the Lord is at work in you, if you are connected to Christ, if His life is flowing through you, there will be an honest repentance.
In 2 Corinthian 7, Paul says, “I now rejoice, not that you are made sorrowful, but that you are made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” You know, people live in the world and they’re sorry about the way their life is going; that just leads to death.
Sorrow can overwhelm a sinner, but it’s a sorrow unto death. It sucks everything out of life; maybe leads to suicide. But a godly sorrow leads to repentance, that leads to salvation; that is life. So when we talk about fruit and we look at our lives and ask, “What is fruit?” first, it is repentance, it is repentance. That’s a good place to start. It is an ongoing repentance. It is a continual sadness, not over the consequence of sin, but over the sin itself. There is a big difference. Most people are sorry about the consequences of sin, but not about the sin itself.
Now, we are told to bear fruit in this section, to bear more fruit, and that God is glorified when we bear much fruit. There is a progression here that is very important for us to understand. There is a progression in our lives, a progression related to abiding and remaining. Perhaps, it’s illustrated well in a couple of passages that I’ll show you – most notably Colossians 1:9. Paul says this: “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Increasing.
You know, it’s really important that there be an increase. Go back to verse 5 of Colossians 1: “The hope that is laid for you in heaven, that has to do with the truth, the gospel has come to you – ” verse 6 “ – just as in all the world also, it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you since the day you heard of it.” That just connects with the idea that there’s fruit, more fruit, much fruit.
Paul’s saying to the Colossians that, “You have now begun to produce fruit, and it is increasing, it is increasing.” Never to the point of satisfaction.
Philippians, chapter 3; familiar words, the testimony of Paul, who was certainly fruitful. But he said, “I have not already obtained, already become perfect; but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet. One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” As we abide in Christ, and as we yield to Christ, and as we increase in the knowledge of Christ, our fruitfulness increases. By every means of grace, by every means of grace, our abiding is deeper and wider and higher and richer, and we become more fruitful.
Some people have suggested that we sort of do nothing. This is the “let go and let God” folks, “the quietest” they use to be called, that you don’t want to do anything at all. If you do anything, that’s the flesh. You just kind of sit there and let God do it through you. Certainly, that was not in Paul’s mind in that same text of Colossians 1:29 where he says, “We proclaim Him, Christ, admonishing every man, teaching every man, with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, work to the point of sweat and exhaustion, agonizing according to His power, which mightily works within me.” It was the power of God, but Paul was working to the point of sweat and exhaustion. He was agonizing, using every power in him, every opportunity, ever fiber of his being. Yes, it is trusting in the present power of Christ, but it also obeying every command, pursuing every spiritual discipline.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9, “I beat my body to bring it into submission.”
It’s a battle. It’s a warfare. That’s always the imagery. We don’t run as people jogging; we run as those who run to win the prize. So there has to be in our abiding an increasing commitment to Christ, which then makes us more fruitful. Applied to repentance, it means that our repentance comes as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. Our repentance comes more readily, comes more rapidly, comes more frequently. It’s a mark of spiritual maturity to be a repenter.
“If we give evidence – ” 1 John 1:9 says, “ – if we give evidence that we repent by confessing our sins, we demonstrate that He is faithful and just to be forgiving our sins,” present tense. If we are the people confessing, we are the people giving evidence that we are being forgiven. So the first thing that I would just suggest to you with regard to fruit is that it’s an attitude that basically dominates our life, resentment of the sin that is in us – not the consequence, but the reality of sin. That’s fruit that proves you’re a true disciple.
Secondly spiritual attitudes. Another kind of fruit – first repentance – another kind of fruit: spiritual attitudes. Galatians 5:22, “The fruit of the Spirit is – the fruit of the Spirit who dwells in us is – ” this is the product, this is the manifestation of the life of the Trinity in us, “ – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Those are attitudes, are they not? Those are attitudes. Those aren’t acts, those aren’t behaviors, they’re what’s behind behaviors. So here, clearly, fruit is virtuous, spiritual attitudes. And, by the way, all of them, all of them were perfectly manifest in Jesus Christ. So we could say it is fruit in us to manifest the very characteristics of Christ – not in the perfection with which He possessed them, but those same virtues we pursue.
In Ephesians 5:9 it says, “Fruit is all goodness and righteousness and truth.” That’s internal: a love for goodness – being good to people; a love for righteousness – honoring God. A love for truth as revealed in Scripture. How do you know if you’re a Christian? You love goodness, you love righteousness, you love truth. Those are attitudes. Those are the attitudes behind the behaviors. So there is an attitude of repentance toward sin. We could say the first fruit is to resent sin and to confess it, turn from it. The second fruit is attitude fruit – attitudes that are virtuous, as indicated in Galatians 5.
Thirdly, another kind of fruit – and I’m just taking you to scriptures that demonstrate this – a third and very important aspect of fruit: go to the 13th chapter of Hebrews for just a moment; Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 15. Here is instruction that, “Through Him – ” that is through Christ. Without Him we can do nothing, right? Again, it’s, “Through Him.” He is mentioned in verse 12 as “the one who sanctified His people through His own blood.” “Through Him – ” who lives in us, the true vine from which we draw our life. “Through Him then, let us – ” once in awhile, every Sunday? “ – continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”
That’s worship. And, by the way, that is a language that is taken from the 14th chapter of the prophecy of Hosea. Hosea says, in chapter 14, “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the Lord.” Go back to the Lord and be ready to talk, be ready to speak. “Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously.” This is a – the words of repentance: salvation. This is looking at Israel’s future conversion. And then in doing so, you “present the fruit of our lips, the fruit of our lips.” “Take away our sin, receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips.”
You can’t worship until you’ve been redeemed. You can’t worship until you’ve repented and been saved. That’s what Hosea’s saying. A time in the future is going to come. Israel’s going to come repent. They’re going to take words back to God. God doesn’t want to hear those words of praise and worship and adoration unless there has been true repentance and true salvation.
“So let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” See that little phrase “give thanks”? That’s probably not the best translation of the Greek. The Greek is the word homologe. Logeó is a Greek verb meaning “to speak” or “to say,” from which we get logos. Homo, H-O-M-O in English means “the same,” the same. Homogeneous, the same.
So what it’s saying is this: “Offer God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that save the same, to His name.” What does that mean? What do we do in worship? We give back to God the very same things that He has reveals to us about Himself. This is what worship is. It is saying back to God everything that He has revealed to us as being true about Himself. All of that is in Scripture.
We don’t make up things. True praise then is saying back to God all His attributes as revealed in Scripture. You go through the Scripture from beginning to the end; the attributes of God are scattered all across the pages of Holy Scripture. The more you know the Bible, the more you know about the nature and character and essential being of God. The more you know who He is and what His attributes are, the more you can say back to Him, “God, you are the Creator, You are the Sustainer, You are the Redeemer. You are all-wise, all-knowing, all-sufficient, all-powerful. You are unchanging. You are gracious, loving, kind. You are just, holy, pure.”
What is worship? It is saying the same things back to God that He has said are true about Him; and that is the only worship that God accepts. He doesn’t want you inventing Him, recreating Him, coming up with your own notion of God, but rather to say back to Him what is true about Him as revealed by Him.
The second thing is to say back to God not only what He has revealed about His nature, but what He’s revealed about His works. So when you go through the psalms, you read things like, “You are the God who did this. You are the God who brought Your people out of Egypt. You are the God who parted the Red Sea. You are the God who led Israel through the wilderness. You are the God who brought us into the Promised Land. You are the God who protected us at the Passover,” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
You come into the New Testament: “You are the God who has redeemed us through the offering of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom You put on the cross and then raised from the dead.” In other words, that is the sum and substance of praise. It is to say back to God with a grateful, thankful heart, all that God has revealed He is and all that He’s revealed He has done; that’s praise. So your praise then is essentially confined by the divine revelation. The more you know about the Word of God, the more you know about God and what He’s done. And the more you know about what He is and what He’s done, the purer your praise is. That’s fruit. That’s the fruit of your lips – worship.
What is fruit then in your life as a believer, that manifests the Trinity is in you? One, it is continual repentance. Two, it is attitudes that are Christ-like attitudes: love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control. And it is praise that really gives back to God a true representation of who He is as the God revealed in the Old Testament, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ revealed in the New, the triune God; and praising Him and thanking Him and glorifying Him for all that He is and all that He has done.
Let me give you another component, a fourth – Philippians, chapter 4 – and this just kind of digs down a little deep in a more specific way. In Philippians, chapter 4, the apostle Paul was obviously in need, very difficult times for him, and dear friends sent him gifts. They sent him supplies, food; and he was extremely grateful. In fact, in verse 16 of Philippians 4, he reminds them that when he was in Thessalonica, they sent a gift more than once for his need. They were very, very generous and loving toward him.
In verse 17, he says this: “Not that I seek the gift – ” this is the pure heart of Paul. “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit – ” NAS says, “ – for the profit which increases to your account.” That word “profit” is not the word profit in Greek. It is karpon. It is the word “fruit.” It is the word karpon, which is just the Greek word for “fruit.” “Thanks for the gift. I’m so glad you sent the gift, not because I want the gift, but I want the fruit that increases to your account.”
He saw that gift, that expression of love, as spiritual fruit produced through them by the indwelling God. It is the similar significance of chapter 15 of Romans: “Macedonia and Achaia – ” 15:26 “ – have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” These Gentile churches were sending money to Jerusalem for poor believers. They were pleased to do so. They’re indebted to them; for if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they’re indebted to minister to them also in material things.
In other words, the gospel came through the Jews and came first to them, and then through them; and so the Gentiles are sending a gift. Verse 28: “Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I’ll go on my way to Spain.” He saw the Gentiles sending money to poor Jews in Jerusalem as spiritual fruit. So we could add something else to the list: spiritual fruit is contributions to those in need, contributions in those in need.
Second Corinthians 9 sees this as “seeds sown which produces fruit. Sow sparingly, reap sparingly,” a money gift. So what is fruit? It is repentance, it is spiritual virtue, it is praise and worship, and it is expressions of love meeting needs. In fact, John asks in 1 John, “If you see your brother have need and you don’t meet his need, how does the love of God dwell in you?” How can you prove you’re a Christian if you don’t love your brother? That’s a big part of 1 John.
Then we give you a fifth element of fruit: 1 Corinthians 14, 1 Corinthians 14. Yeah, you know what’s going on in 1 Corinthians 14 – some of you do – chaos in the Corinthian church with tongues and all kinds of chaos, as everybody was doing whatever they wanted in the services. Paganism had encroached in the worship, and so Paul wants to call a halt to all this nonsense, all this meaningless talk. So he says in verse 14, “If I pray in a language, another language, my spirit prays, my mind is unfruitful. If I’m praying in a language I don’t know, my mind is not engaged.”
So what is the outcome? “I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also. I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.” I’m not going to be engaged in things that I don’t understand and you don’t understand. What’s the point? “Otherwise, if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the ‘Amen’ at your giving of thanks, since he doesn’t know what you’re saying?” This would be, according to verse 14, unfruitful, unfruitful.
So you want to be fruitful, say things that edify. That’s another kind of fruit – communication that edifies, communication that blesses, communication that instructs. It may be in a prayer, it may be in a teaching environment, it may be in a conversation, it may be in a counseling or discipling setting. What they were doing was what people do today, going off in a corner and mumbling gibberish to themselves in some kind of nonsense language they didn’t know about. It didn’t help them; it certainly didn’t help anybody else. It was selfish, and gave them some kind of fleshly gratification without edifying anybody, including them.
Now, if the real gift was used – and there was a real gift in the apostolic era – then verse 13 says, “If you’re going to actually speak in a language given by God, then pray that it may be interpreted.” Don’t ever let it happen if it’s not interpreted, because understanding is everything. So when you communicate truth to someone, that’s fruit. When I preach to you, teach you, that’s the fruit of the life in me.
Now, another one – I’ll give you two more quickly – pure conduct, pure behavior. We’ve got to get to behavior, all right? We’ve talked about repentance internal, and we’ve talked about virtues internal, we’ve talked about worship that starts in the heart and reaches out. Now we’re starting to reach out – a communication that blesses others.
And then pure conduct, just pure conduct – righteous behavior. Philippians 1:11, “Being filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ.” Or, Colossians 1:9-10. It says essentially the same thing, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respect, bearing fruit in every good work, bearing fruit in every good work.” Hebrews 12:11 essentially says the same thing: general conduct. So now we’ve talked about repentance, we’ve talked about the idea of manifesting Christ-like virtues on the inside, worship, contributions of love to the people in need, communication that blesses others, a life of righteous behavior and conduct – this is fruit, and this is how you prove you’re a real disciple.
One final one: bringing people to Christ – that’s fruit, that’s fruit – bringing people to Christ. John 4, when Jesus was talking to the woman at the well in Samaria, He was speaking to the disciples as the Samaritans were kind of coming out of the village toward Him. In verse 34, He said, “My food is to do the will of the One who sent Me and accomplish His work. Do not say, ‘There are four months and then comes the harvest.’” That would have been the agricultural calendar. “Don’t say that. Look, lift up your eyes, look on the fields, they’re white for harvest.”
And I think He saw the Samaritans coming across the field. “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal, so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” Sometimes you get to sow, sometimes you get to reap, sometimes you get to sow and reap, right? Or, in the language of 1 Corinthians: “One sows, one waters, and God gives the – ” what? “ – the increase.” This is fruit. This is fruit.
The apostle Paul wanted to go to Rome, in Chapter 1 of Romans, for one purpose – Romans 1:13, “that I may obtain some fruit among you, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. And I’m under obligation to the Gentiles, barbarians, wise, foolish. For my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you who also are at Rome because I’m not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, the Jew first, and also the Gentile.”
“I want to come and have some fruit.” What did He mean? Some people who had come to Christ, by the power of God, through the apostle Paul – spiritual fruit, spiritual fruit. In Romans 15:18 he said, “I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.” That’s spiritual fruit, spiritual fruit.
That is, I think the most wonderful fruit because it’s the end product of everything else. If you live a life that resents and resists sin, if you live a life that pursues holiness, if you live a life of worship, if you live a life with the right kind of spiritual attitudes, if you live a life that does good to others, shows love to them and manifests general righteousness, your life will have a powerful testimony. And when you say the triune God lives in you, there will be something to support that claim. That makes the gospel attractive, and the Lord will use you to lead others to salvation.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 16:15, “I urge you, brethren – you know the household of Stephanas, they were the first fruits of Achaia.” He saw the folks that came to Christ under his ministry, his fruit: repentance, Christ-likeness, spiritual virtues, worship, expressions of love, righteous behavior, and winning souls to Christ. And, as we read from what Peter said, “If you see these things, if you see these things, you will know that you are a true disciple.”
“If these qualities are yours – ” 2 Peter 1:8 “ – and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you lacked these things, you’re blind, short-sighted, forgotten your purification from your former sins. So be diligent, brethren, all the more, to make certain about His calling and choosing you. And as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; but you will know that an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” Now, there are a whole lot of other benefits for abiding, but that’s for next week.
Lord, thank You again for the richness of Your word and truth. Thank You for blessing us with this gift above all gifts, more precious than anything. Thank You for giving us opportunity to worship You today, to life up Your praise. Now may we go and live the things that we know to be true, for Your honor and glory we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
I’m glad I don’t know the future. It would be very troubling to always know what will happen next. And of course, if I knew certain things were going to happen, I’d do my best to make sure they didn’t happen. Not only that, but there would be other things I’d try to make happen sooner, and I’d mess everything up.
Jesus, being God, had complete foreknowledge. He knew exactly what was ahead of Him. He knew that His disciples would forsake Him. Worst of all, He knew that although He was sinless, He would take all the sin, corruption, and filth of the world upon Himself and be momentarily separated from God the Father when He became the sin sacrifice for humanity.
Jesus wasn’t looking forward to this, but He knew it had to be done. And at the halfway point on His difficult journey, He experienced a significant event.
Leading up to this moment, a conversation took place between Jesus and the disciples at Caesarea Philippi, where He asked them, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13 NLT).
They offered various answers, and finally Peter got it right, saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (verse 16). So Jesus commended Peter for his insightful statement.
From that point on, Jesus began to declare to the disciples how He must suffer many things at the hands of the elders and chief priests, be crucified, and rise from the dead on the third day. This was a new movement in the ministry of Jesus where He openly and clearly addressed His certain future.
And Jesus apparently believed the time was right for some of His disciples, specifically Peter, James, and John, to have a greater glimpse of His glory.
I find it interesting that Jesus singled out these three on a number of occasions. It might lead us to believe they were sort of the spiritual elite. And that’s one way to look at it.
But here’s another perspective: maybe they just needed spiritual attention. For instance, when I was in school and got into trouble, the teacher would say, “Greg Laurie, come up here and sit right next to my desk so I can keep my eye on you.”
I wonder if Jesus thought, “I want to keep an eye on you boys.”
Don’t forget that James and John wanted to call fire down on people who weren’t hospitable toward them. That’s why they were known as the Sons of Thunder. And of course Peter needed attention as well.
Whatever the reason, Jesus singled out Peter, James, and John for a rare privilege: to witness His transfiguration. There on the mountaintop, Jesus’s garments “became as white as light” (Matthew 17:2 NLT). His face shined like the sun. And the fact that Moses and Elijah were there speaking with Him only added to the drama of that wonderful day.
We might think the miracle was that Jesus shined like the sun. That was a supernatural demonstration, but I don’t think it was a miracle. I think the real miracle was what happened on all the other days when Jesus didn’t shine like that.
The Transfiguration wasn’t so much a new miracle. Rather, it was the temporary ceasing of a habitual one. In other words, Jesus was God. For Him to shine was not a great feat. A greater feat was for Him not to shine all the time. Jesus veiled His glory.
In the New Testament book of Philippians, we read that Jesus “gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (2:7–8 NLT).
Jesus never stopped being God. But He laid aside the privileges of deity and walked among us as a man.
So at the Transfiguration, He was effectively saying to Peter, James, and John, “Take a look and see who I really am.” He let His glory shine out.
And who wouldn’t be dazzled by such a display? It was so wonderful, so awe-inspiring, in fact, that Peter wanted the moment to last forever. He blurted out, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (verse 4 NLT).
When something wonderful happens, our natural inclination is to hold on to it, to freeze it in time and never let it go. But God doesn’t want us to build our tabernacles in the place of glory when the world is in flames.
Waiting for Peter, James, and John at the bottom of the mountain was cold, hard reality. They learned that we can’t always have mountaintop experiences. On those occasions when we do, they’re preparing us to live in the valleys.
The real character that God develops in our lives usually doesn’t happen in those great moments when we bask in glory as much as when we’re in the valley of reality, putting into practice what we’ve learned.
As this world grows darker, our tendency is to want to withdraw into our own subculture instead of realizing there’s a world out there in need. We may think, “Oh, I wish I could find a Christian city. We could have a Christian mayor, Christians on the city council and Christians on the police force. Everyone would be Christians, and that would just be wonderful.”
But God doesn’t want us to build a Christian city on this Earth; rather, He wants us to reach the world with the gospel. So we have to come down from our mountaintops. We have to come down from our emotional experiences and live this Christian life in the real world.
Often after the great works of God in our lives, there will be challenges. But don’t dread them. Just keep moving, keep growing, and keep learning.
For our small faith to become great faith, we must apply it. We must use it and stretch it. And we must avoid the temptation of spiritual slumber and laziness so we don’t miss out on what God is doing.
Persecution for U.S. Christians Could Come Quicker Than You Think
“Come on man,” get with the program. Joe Biden and his congressional allies on Capitol Hill hope to pass a new domestic anti-terror law. Guess who it may soon be targeting. Rod Dreher explains on this segment of “Where in the World.”
MacArthur to Biden: “You’d better be careful when you put your hand on God”
On 1 24 2021 #JohnMacArthur gave a scathing rebuke of #Biden ‘s Inaugural address, a rebuke that all Christians should affirm and defend. [ We affirm and defend the rebuke]
Elijah: Overcoming an Intimidating Culture | Dr. David Jeremiah
Our society is tolerant of almost everything except biblical Christianity, and that can put us on the defensive. Today, Dr. David Jeremiah studies the life of Elijah and shows us how we can overcome our timidity as we follow Christ.
2Timothy 1:12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.
Picture old Paul sitting there in his jail cell waiting for the executioner.
– He was cold, hungry, lonely….he’d been beaten, stoned, left for dead………..
2 Corinthians 11:25-29 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. 28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?
Paul had been through it all because of his love for Christ, but Paul wasn’t complaining!
– Anyone else would be wallowing in self-pity — Not old Paul!
– He was instructing young Timothy to “hang in there” because whatever he had to face was minor in comparison to his relationship with Christ.
– Satan tried to discourage Paul, he’d tried to destroy Paul, but he couldn’t stop Paul.
Listen to what the Old Apostle is saying — 2 Timothy 1:12 12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.
He was about to die for something he believed in! — JESUS CHRIST!
We need convictions like that — we need to be grounded so completely nothing will shake us.
– We especially need to be grounded in our faith as things develop in our near future.
I need to tell you, “Hang in there because you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
I’ve a sign in my office: “I’ve been beaten, kicked, lied to, cussed at, swindled, taken advantage of and laughed at, BUT the only reason I hang around this crazy place is to see what will happen next!!!”
The world’s getting less and less tolerant of genuine Christians.
– We’re coming under more and more pressure to compromise our faith.
– It’s happened before in history — it’s happening now in other countries — It’s building in the USA!
Religious liberties in the U.S. are in the cross-hairs of the militant, secular agenda following the election and inauguration of the Democrat regime pushing their Marxist schemes.
Why? John 3:19 — And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.
You must choose a side because “you can’t stand strong on top of a fence.”
God’s purification of our faith isn’t new. – Millions of Christians before us have suffered persecution – or pressure, like is happening in America – and God’s still God, we’re still His children.
So our Father will take care of us if we’ll be faithful and willing to stand.
“Throughout history God’s people have been forced to bow to godless agendas, decrees, ordinances, laws, yet they’ve refused to bow, and suffered intense persecution.
At the same time God’s people have been forced not to bow to God, His boundaries, His laws, His words – yet they chose to bow in reverence and faced the fires of persecution as well.
“Either way, persecutors want God’s faithful obey man, not God – to bow or not to bow.
And their easiest targets are the fence sitters.
So if you’re straddling the fence, please move to God’s side and trust that He’s got your back.
We’ve nothing to fear, and we can’t forget Jesus is in Heaven speaking about our courage to the Father – Matthew 10:32-33 — “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”
We need to be grounded so completely in our faith and convictions that we’re unshakeable.
That’s the attitude of the Christians in the Middle East.
ISIS is freaked out by Christians in the Middle East because they can’t get them to break.
– They keep doing worse and worse things to them and nobody’s crying, nobody’s begging for their lives.
. They’re all going quietly, and ISIS can’t figure it out.
– It’s because these martyrs have found something they believe in enough to die for!
If we can get to where we can look another man in the eyes and say “I’m not moving, I won’t compromise my beliefs or my Savior — I don’t wish you ill, I don’t have any problems with you personally, but I’m not moving!”
– There ought to be something in us that makes an enemy say, they’re serious!
We’re watching our Nation build towards the same intolerant treatment to Christians.
Does faith precede courage or courage precede faith in being willing to die for what you believe in?
Elijah Lovejoy was active in Missouri in the 1820s, 1830s, during the Missouri Compromise when the federal Congress said, we’re going to allow slavery.
He opposed slavery. He was a preacher. His brother, Owen, was a preacher. He didn’t consider himself an abolitionist, but he was a preacher.
He had a weekly magazine called The Observer, that featured religious articles.
He started touching on the slavery issue and writing about what he thought of slavery.
His press was smashed and burned 3 times.
Each time, he put it back — in those circumstances you come face to face with what you believe in! Is it enough to die for?
He wrote in TheObserver , “I shall come out openly, fearlessly, and as I hope in such a manner as becomes a servant of Jesus Christ when defending His cause, and whatever may be the consequences, I think, I trust, that through the Grace of God, I’m prepared to meet them—even unto death itself.”
He said, “My friends are trembling. My enemies, numerous and influential, are open and fiercer in their threats, but I can truly say I was never more calm. I have fasted and prayed. I have earnestly sought the path of duty and think, I am assured, that I have found it, and now I am determined that not all the fury of men or devils shall drive me from it. Yet you need not be disappointed to hear that I have fallen a victim, at least to the lash or the tar barrel.”
He said, “If they content themselves with whipping, I will not run until I have been whipped as often, at least, as Paul was — 8 times.”
He prepared himself for what was coming, except the next time, they killed him — they shot him. They assassinated him and burned his press down over his head.
He found something he believed in enough to die for!
John Hus was one of the key forerunners of the Reformation. He devoted himself to Scripture and taught that Christ, not the Pope, is Head of the Church. – In 1414, Hus was hauled before the Council of Constance to defend his beliefs. – He was convicted of heresy and sentenced to be burned at the stake unless he recanted.
Hus stood firm. On the day of his martyrdom he said: “God is my witness that the evidence against me is false.… In the truth of the Gospel I have written, taught, and preached, today I will gladly die.” As the crackling flames consumed him, he joyfully sang a hymn.
He found something he believed in enough to die for!
We need strong convictions so we can say with Paul — 2 Timothy 1:12 — “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”
1. WE NEED CONVICTIONS ABOUT THE AWFULNESS OF SIN
Galatians 6:7 — “Don’t be misled — you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.”
Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Today’s Churches and Christians for the most part have become so soft on sin that they don’t even recognize sin when it’s flaunted in our faces.
– We’ve softened terms…….Sin is still sin!–And all sinners willstill go to Hell!
– However they don’t have to because God’s provided a way for them to escape Hell.
Today, everybody claims to be Christians. When I was a kid, God may not have gotten the recognition He deserves, but today He gets more publicity than He deserves. People used to hide their light under a bushel; today it’d be good if some had the sense not to share their testimony — toomany politicians claim to be Christians, but there’s no fruit!
2. WE NEED TO BE CONVINCED THERE’S A LITERAL, ETERNAL, BURNING HELL AND
JUDGMENT FOR SIN – Luke 16:23 —KJV —And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Charlie Peace, a criminal in England, was being taken to his execution, he listened to a minister reading from the Bible.
– When he found he was reading about Heaven and Hell, he looked at the preacher and said, “Sir, if I believed what you and the Church say, and even if England were covered withbroken glass from coast to coast, I’d walk over it on hands and knees and think it worthwhile living just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that.”
Who do you know who’s going to Hell unless they accept Jesus Christ?
– What are you doing to win them to Jesus and His Salvation?
3. WE MUST BE CONVINCED OF GOD’S LOVE FOR SINNERS.
John 3:16 — KJV-For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Romans 5:8 — But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
2 Corinthians 5:14 —Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.
Officer Tori Matthews of the Southern California Humane Society got an emergency call:
– A boy’s pet iguana had been scared up a tree by a neighbor’s dog. It then fell from the tree into a swimming pool, where it sank like a brick.
– Officer Matthews came with her net. She dived into the pool, emerging seconds later with the pet’s limp body.
As the Arizona Republic (2/14/95) reported, she thought, “Well, you do CPR on a person and a dog, why not an iguana?” So she put her lips to the iguana’s.
– “Now that I look back on it,” she said, “it was a pretty ugly animal to be kissing, but the last thing I wanted to do was tell that little boy his iguana had died.”
The lizard responded to her efforts and made a full recovery.
– Tori Matthews didn’t see a water-logged reptile; she saw a little boy’s beloved pet.
– We may never see the beauty in some people, but when we realize how much they mean to
God, we’ll do what we can to keep them from drowning.
4. WE MUST BE CONVINCED IT’S OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO WITNESS FOR CHRIST
Acts 1:8 — “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 5:41-42 — The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.
Many believers are “rabbit hole” Christians.
– In the morning they pop out of their safe Christian homes, hold their breath at work, scurry home to their families and then off to their Bible studies, and finally end the day praying for the unbelievers they safely avoided all day.
– It’s easy to sit and wait for somebody else to do the job Christ has called us to do.
5. WE NEED TO BE CONVICTED OF THE NEARNESS OF CHRIST’S SECOND COMING
Titus 2:12—13 — And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.
Matthew 24:44 — You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.
– We’ve a lot of work to do, but not a lot of time to get it done.
– Grandpa asking me and Dennis Mayhew to clean mess in Fellowship Hall — we got to playing instead and he came — OOPS!
6. WE NEED TO KNOW THAT WE’LL BE PART OF THE 1ST RESURRECTION
1 Corinthians 15:51-58 — But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.
One day an assistant of the chemist Michael Faraday accidentally knocked a little silver cup into a beaker of very strong acid – In no time the silver cup disappeared.
The chemist was summoned.
– He quickly put a certain chemical into the jar, and in a moment every particle of silver came together at the bottom.- Removing the shapeless mass, he sent it to a silversmith, who recreated a cup that shone as bright as ever.
What Michael Faraday did in his laboratory is a small picture of what God will do on resurrection day for all His saints.
He’ll miraculously restore the bodies of all who have died in Christ.
This is the mystery Paul spoke about in 1 Corinthians 15:51 – 55
– He said when Christ returns, the living saints will be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and the dead will be raised with incorruptible bodies.
The apostle wrote, “Then shall be brought to pass the saying, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
I think Paul imagined hearing the triumphant voices of the saints on that great day. – Those who don’t die will be instantly changed, and will exclaim, “O death, where is thy sting?”
Those who rise from the grave in resurrected bodies will shout: ”O grave, where is thy victory?”
What a picture of triumph!
How the saints will radiate the glory of the Lord on Resurrection Day as they’re changed into His perfect likeness!
In an age of doubt and skepticism, let’s affirm with joyful confidence the words of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body!”
Those are the Convictions we need to have in order to have something we believe so strongly we’d be willing to die for — I’m willing to die for something I believe in — JESUS CHRIST!
To sum up, I have strong convictions about:
The awfulness of sin.
The fact that Hell exists.
The truth that God loves sinners.
We must tell them or they’ll miss out.
Jesus is coming soon — we have no time to waste!
We can be part of the First Resurrection.
I’ll close with this story.
When the Texas rangers were organized, Texas was a home for all sorts of lawless folks.
The Texas Rangers were tough guys that had to take on all the outlaws and the Santa Anna dictators and all the stuff they did.
Capt. Bill McDonald ran the rangers.- He taught the Rangers, “No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in theright and keeps on a-comin’.”
That’s the deal, you stand up, and don’t back down.
Whether it’s in negotiations, whether it’s in the American Revolution, whether it’s in the anti-slavery cause, whether it’s ISIS, or anything else, you stand up, even if it’s by yourself.
You don’t back down, and you keep on coming.
– That overcomes them! Because you found something you believe in so much you’d die for it!
PODCAST I WON’T DIE FOR SOMETHING I DON’T BELIEVE IN!
Have you ever had one of those days when everything was going along beautifully, and then suddenly a crisis hit? It may have caused you to say, “Why me, Lord? What did I do to deserve this?”
The Bible asks the question, “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” (Romans 11:34 NKJV).
The answer to that question is I have . . . on many occasions. I’ve tried to give God counsel and direction.
But as I think about my attitude many times, I realize that I’m not alone. That’s why I’m so glad Peter’s story is in the Bible. You have to love a guy like him, because he was so utterly human. He was outspoken and thoroughly honest. Peter said what we’d probably say in a situation.
Although Peter was impulsive, impetuous and hotheaded, he also was very honest, courageous, and intelligent. And perhaps he was the most accessible of all the followers of Jesus.
I can look at Peter’s life and say, “There’s hope for me,” because not only does the Bible record Peter’s great victories, but it also records his foibles and defeats.
In Caesarea Philippi, Jesus commended Peter for his insightful statement in which he recognized that Jesus was the Messiah. But then Jesus spoke of His impending death and suffering.
Matthew’s Gospel tells us, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (16:21 NKJV).
Jesus knew exactly what was in His future. It came as no surprise to Him. He even knew who would betray Him. He knew He would be raised from the dead, and He knew exactly when that would happen.
Peter, however, couldn’t believe that Jesus was saying this. In fact, Jesus used an interesting word here when He said He would be killed. From the original language, this word also could be translated “murdered.”
I wonder if Peter heard anything else after that. He must have been thinking, “What? That cannot happen!”
It’s commendable that Peter was concerned about Jesus, but he was missing what Jesus was trying to say. And he took things way too far: “Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’” (Matthew 16:22 NKJV).
Maybe Peter thought, “Look, I’m on a roll. It wasn’t that long ago when He told me, ‘Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’ Hey, I’d better set Jesus straight. He’s making a big mistake.”
Interestingly, in the original language the word used for “rebuke” carries the meaning of a leader or an officer rebuking someone under his jurisdiction. It’s a word that would describe a commanding officer giving his troops a tongue-lashing. It also implies that Peter did this repeatedly.
So picture this in your mind. Jesus had just made this statement and was obviously in anguish over it. And then Peter took an authoritarian position over the Lord and repeatedly began to rebuke Him.
Peter had lost touch with reality, but Jesus set him straight. He said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23 NKJV).
Now, why did Jesus say that? Because it was Satan who wanted to stop Jesus from going to the cross. But Jesus would not let anything deter him from His course. He knew what He had to do.
So one moment Peter was speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the next moment he was speaking under the inspiration of the devil himself. It’s that continual struggle that we all face between right and wrong, between the flesh and the Spirit.
The Bible says, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:17 NLT).
And guess what? The battle never stops. No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, this battle will rage until your final day. On one hand you can speak under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and on the other hand you can speak under the inspiration of the flesh. We must guard our words and be careful, because that battle will persist.
May God help us to trust Him when He doesn’t do things the way we think He ought to do them. May God help us to trust Him when we’re tempted to say, “Why, Lord?” or when, like Peter, we say, “Lord, that’s a bad idea. What are you doing? What are you thinking?”
God is thinking of His eternal purposes. We can only see the short term and what will benefit us in this moment. God is looking at the long term, the big picture. And He knows what He’s doing.
It’s during these times that we must trust Him, cast ourselves at His feet and say, “Lord, I admit to You that I don’t understand. I don’t know why. But I thank You that You are in control.”
When it comes to things that I don’t understand, I fall back on what I do understand. I understand that God loves me, that He’s looking out for my best interests, and that He will work all things “together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT).
I don’t understand a lot of things that happen in life, but God will make it clear in that final day. Until then, we all need to trust Him.
Open your Bible now to the fifteenth chapter of John, John chapter 15. It is pretty popular to refer to one’s relationship to Jesus as a personal relationship. That seems to be kind of a contemporary, common, evangelical vernacular. In fact, it may be how you view the distinction between some kind of nominal Christian and a genuine Christian. You might say to someone, “Well, you may go to church, and you may carry out some of the ordinances, but do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” That’s the pretty common language.
In fact, that has become sort of the typical approach to people. “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” I just want to kind of qualify that, if I can, for a moment. Every human who has ever lived has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and for most of them it’s not a good one. It’s a relationship between one who is judged and the Judge. Jesus knows every human being personally and intimately – every thought they’ve ever had, every word they’ve ever spoken, every deed they’ve ever done, every relationship they were ever engaged in. All of that is on record in heaven, and on the basis of that will come eternal judgement because apart from believing in Him, the record of their thoughts and motives and words and deeds and relationships only consigns them to eternal hell. It is very personal. Every person will be judged on a personal, individual basis by the Judge, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Maybe there would be a better way, then, to refer to the legitimacy of a genuine relationship to Christ than to say, “Do you have a personal relationship with Him?” I understand what you mean by that, but we need to go beyond that, that is not a biblical term. You’re not going to find that kind of phrase used in Scripture. But it then poses the question: What is the true nature of a Christian’s relationship to Christ? What is the true nature of a Christian’s relationship to Christ? How do we understand the spiritual reality of our union with God, our union with Christ? How do we understand that?
The Bible helps us by giving us a series of analogies. The Bible refers to the relationship between a believer and the Lord as the relationship of a sheep to a shepherd. The Bible also refers to that relationship as the relationship between a child and a father, between a subject and a king, between a slave and a master, and it even refers to that relationship as the relationship between a body and its head. And Scripture delineates these things. In particular, the New Testament focuses on the body metaphor, but all the others appear both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. And they all convey some aspect of our relationship to the Lord: a shared life, shared characteristics, sovereign power, control, direction, obedience, provision, protection, feeding. All of those things are bound up in those metaphors.
Now, before us today in the fifteenth chapter of John is another of those very instructive metaphors – pictures, images – so that we can define our relationship to Jesus Christ in biblical terminology; and it is the relationship between branches and a vine. I want you to go back to chapter 15, and I’m going to read verses 1 through 11, even though we’ve already covered the first three verses – that was a few weeks ago – and I want to make it all clear in your mind.
Chapter 15, verse 1, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
Ten times in those verses that I read to you, really starting in verse 4, you see the word “abide.” So we’re talking about what it is to abide in Christ, to abide in Christ. That’s a familiar term to people who have been Christians for a long time. It’s a term that has been much used. It has been given lots of spiritual connotations, but we’re going to dig down into this text and find out precisely what our Lord intends to say by this. But let’s back up to the opening three verses and sort of set the scene. There are four identities here. There is a vine. There is a vinedresser. And there are two kinds of branches. There’s no mystery about who is the vine. Our Lord Jesus says, “I am the true vine,” verse 1, and again in verse 5. There’s no question about who is the vinedresser, the One who cares for the vine and its branches. Verse 1, “My Father is the vinedresser.” This is about God through Christ working with people. The question is about the branches, and in verse 5 our Lord said, “You are the branches.” He was talking, essentially, to his apostles. “You are the branches.” But there are two kinds of branches. There are branches that abide and produce fruit, and there are branches that do not abide, do not produce fruit, are cut off, dried up, and burned.
The question is, How are we to understand these branches? Who are the fruitless branches mentioned in verse 2, the branch that doesn’t bear fruit? And then in verse 6, the one that is thrown away, dried up, gathered, cast into the fire and burned? Who are the fruitless branches, and the other, who are the fruitful branches who bear the fruit, verse 2, verse 5, and verse 8? Who are they? Well, let me recreate for you the context. The context is a very simple context. This isn’t our Lord among many people. This isn’t our Lord in the midst of the crowd. When He says “you”, He’s directing His words at the Twelve. In fact, in particular at this point, He’s directing His words at the eleven remaining, Judas having been dismissed.
Now, where are we in the life of our Lord in John 15? It’s Thursday night in the Upper Room, celebrating the Passover with His disciples the night before He is crucified. And on that night He gives many promises to His disciples. They start in chapter 13, run all the way through chapter 16. Then in chapter 17 He prays a prayer to the Father that the Father will fulfill all the promises He’s made in those previous chapters. It’s a significant, really an incomparable, unparalleled section of Scripture. Nothing like it anywhere in the Bible because it’s loaded with promises to our Lord’s people. That means us.
Now, as He comes to chapter 15, the drama of Judas has already taken place. Judas has been exposed. Satan has entered Judas – that’s what the text says – and Judas has left, dismissed by the Lord. He has gone to set out the details for the betrayal of Jesus, the arrest of Jesus in the middle of the night, which leads to the execution of Jesus on the cross the next day. The eleven are left. One has defected. It is a massive defection. Judas is the branch that doesn’t stay. Judas is the branch that doesn’t remain. Judas is the branch that doesn’t abide.
Now, in all honesty, if you looked at the twelve apostles up to this point, and somebody told you there is one of them that is fruitless, that produces nothing, that is going to be cut off, withered, burned – Who is it? If you were just looking at the behavior of the Twelve, you might assume it could be possibly Peter. Peter seemed to stumble more than the rest, at least there’s more revelation about his stumblings than anybody else. Peter seems to have a kind of dominating self-confidence that makes him tell the Lord, the Lord is not going to do things that He says He’s going to do. Peter overstates his affection, overstates his strength, overstates his commitment. Could it be that Peter is the one who is the fruitless branch?
The point being, you wouldn’t have necessarily picked out any of the others. It was Judas all along. But from the superficial viewpoint even of the other eleven, they all said when this was announced, “Is it I? Is it I? Is it I?” There was nothing about Judas that manifested the fact that he was fruitless and headed for hell. But that’s how it is with some branches because perceivably they are attached. Judas was attached visibly to Jesus. It was a superficial attachment. It was an attachment with no life, and that became obvious when he no longer was abiding in Christ.
Now, this is a very common reality, and I think you know it today. You know there are people in the church with us this morning who are fruitless branches, who are here, who make some profession of interest in Christ to one degree or another, but their lives do not manifest His power and His life. You know that. And you could go from here, the microcosm to the macrocosm of other churches and denominations and fellowships to the church at large, and you know that Christianity is this massive kind of reality in the world that is filled with all kinds of people, many of whom have no genuine, fruit-bearing power. This is a concern of our Lord.
Go back to John chapter 2. You remember in chapter 2, verse 23, He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, and during the feast He was doing all kinds of signs, wonders, miracles. And it says in verse 23, “Many believed in His name.” That sounds hopeful. It sounds good. “But Jesus,” verse 24, “on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” He knew it was a false faith. He knew it was a superficial faith. They believed in Him, but only superficially. At that point, one of those men, one of those superficial-interested sort of quasi-believers, was a man named Nicodemus, who then poses questions to Him in chapter 3, who later came to be a true follower.
But there were lots of superficial followers of Jesus, lots of those who were attached outwardly. Go to chapter 6, at the point where Jesus does this massive miracle, feeding as many as 20,000 to 25,000 people by creating food. This is a wonder that is inescapable as an act of God. And there were many followers that Jesus drew up to this point and from this event, but in verse 66, Jesus was speaking, and in response to the words He said – not the miracles He did, but the words He said – “Many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” They left. They did not abide. They did not remain. They did not stay.
“So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’” And yet, “Jesus answered, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ Now, He meant Judas…[who] was going to betray Him.” There in their own midst, not only were there many who defected openly, but there was Judas whose defection had not happened.
In the eighth chapter and verse 30, “As He spoke,” again, “many came to believe in Him.” Many make some kind of profession that allows for some kind of attachment to Jesus, to which He responded in verse 31, “Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed in Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.’” Mathts alths, “genuine students, genuine learners, genuine disciples.” And then “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They hadn’t yet come to know the truth. They hadn’t been set free from the search for the truth and from the bondage of sin. Whether or not they were true disciples would be manifest, because they would continue to obey His word.
In chapter 12, and a very interesting group is mentioned in verse 42. “Many…of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”
Listen, superficiality tracked Jesus through His entire ministry, as it does today, as it does today. Chapter 13, again, in the incident of the washing of the feet, verse 10, Jesus says to Peter, “‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’” And, again, they had no idea who this was. Judas was not exposed.
Now, just a reference again to something else that John wrote over in 1 John chapter 2 and verse 19 – very important statement, speaking of people who defect, who do not abide, who do not stay – “They went out from us, but they were not really of us.” John knows this now from what he learned about our Lord’s words in John 15 and the experience of Judas and others. “They went out from us,” and it’s still happening in his experience as an apostle, “but they were not really of us; if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” And then down in verse 24, “As for you,” he writes – he says now the same thing that our Lord said to the disciples that night – “As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.” “You abide in Me, and I’ll abide in you.” John is reiterating what he heard on that Thursday night and is recorded for us in John 15.
The command then that I want you to notice is in verse 4, “Abide in Me,” “abide in Me.” Let’s not get too mystical about that, too spiritual about that. It’s simply the Greek word men, which means “to stay, to remain.” Don’t leave, don’t forsake Me, don’t walk away. This could speak to the issue of what theologians call the perseverance of the saints. Stay. Don’t do what Judas did. Don’t do what many other Judas-like persons do.
Hebrews 4:14. Hebrews, the book of Hebrews, written to a Jewish community of believers – and attached to that Jewish community of believers were some fence-sitting non-believers who were attracted to Christ. They were associating with those believing Jews, but they weren’t making a full commitment to Christ. And so in Hebrews 4:14, the writer of Hebrews says, “Let us hold fast our profession.” If you make any profession of Christ, hold on to it. And all the way through Hebrews there are warnings to this group of Jews, attached to the true believers, who have not come all of the way to Christ. You’re warned over and over and over. Chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4, chapter 6, chapter 10 – warning, warning, warning, warning. “Don’t leave.” “Don’t go away.” “Don’t defect.” “Don’t apostatize.” “Hold fast that profession.”
Now, that is all our Lord is saying in verse 4: stay. “You’ve made a profession. You’ve made an association. Stay, remain, abide. Don’t leave.” There is an Old Testament moment that I think elucidates on this. Turn to Deuteronomy 31; Deuteronomy 31 and verse 14. This is a final word from Moses – really to the people as the leadership of Israel has transitioned from Moses, who can’t go into the Promised Land because of what he did – and Joshua, who will lead them into the Promised Land. Moses has been their leader for 40 years.
The Lord comes and says to Moses, Deuteronomy 31:14, “‘Behold, the time for you to die is near; call Joshua, and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.’ So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves at the tent of meeting. The Lord appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood at the doorway of the tent.” This is the Tabernacle. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and’ – listen to this – ‘this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land.’” They’ve been wandering 40 years. They’re about to go into the land, and God says they’re going to play the harlot with the strange gods of the land. They’re going to go into idolatry. “‘Into the midst of which they are going, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?’ But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods.’” And they did – massive defection.
They were attached to the covenant people, Israel. They were only superficially attached to the covenant people, Israel. That became manifest when they did not remain, when they did not stay faithful, when they did not continue, when they did not persevere. “Don’t be like them.” The apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, warns the Corinthians not to do that – “Don’t be like those in the wilderness who defected.” There are all kinds of warnings throughout the New Testament to be faithful, to remain, to stay.
That is what is going on here. Stay. We all know people who were around a while, and then they left, and it wasn’t because they left town. They left God. They left His people. They left the Scripture. “Don’t do that. Stay, remain, abide.” Why? Starting in verse 4, there’s an unfolding of the blessings of abiding, the promises of abiding. Profound blessings come to those who stay. Blessing number one: salvation; salvation, eternal salvation. Now, how would you describe your salvation? If somebody says to you, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” and they say, “Well, what does that mean?” What do you say? Do you say, “I go to church”? A lot of people do that. You say, “Well, you know, I worship. I go to a Bible study. I believe the Bible.” Is that what you would say? Let me give you the baseline, bottom line, irreducible minimum, which at the same time is the eternal, infinite maximum. If you’re a Christian, here is what you say: “Abide in Me and I in you.” What does it mean to be a Christian? It means – listen – God lives in you. Yes, the Creator God of the universe, the infinitely holy triune God lives in you. That is the essence of what it means to have a relationship with God in salvation: God lives in me. And that may be the best way that we can explain our own lives and our own identities.
Rather than saying, “I have a personal relationship with Jesus,” which sounds kind of like you’re somebody special, you would be better off to say, “Well, God, the eternal God, holy God, the Creator God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live in me.” What!? But that is essentially exactly what our Lord is saying, and it’s a trinitarian presence, staggering reality. Now, I grant you that the glorious manifestation of the children of God of Romans 8 has not yet been manifest, has not yet been made visible. That won’t happen until we’re glorified. So in the meantime, we are veiled, right? We are veiled. The world doesn’t see us. It is important to know who we are, so I am, I am literally a body in which God lives. He lives in me. The Lord has come to live in me.
In the fourteenth chapter, our Lord was talking to the disciples on the same night. In verse 23, He says, “If anyone loves Me” – “if your love is real, you will obey.” Love and obedience go together. “He will keep His word; and My Father will love him,” and how much will he love him? He will love him so that, “We will come to him and make Our home with him.” “This is who We are. This is absolutely who We are.” It’s just a truth that gets repeated and repeated.
Go back to verse 17 of John 14, talking of “the Spirit of truth,” the Holy Spirit. “You know Him because He abides with you and will be” – Where? – “in you.” So verse 23 says, “We” – the Son and the Father, – “will make our home with him.” And verse 17 says the Holy Spirit will make his home in us, and verse 20, “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” The Trinity lives in a believer.
It is really stunning and our Lord affirms this in His High Priestly Prayer in John 17:23, “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” What manifests our transformation to the world is the presence of God in us. Really an astonishing thing, absolutely an astonishing reality. If you stay, it’s evidence your faith is real, and if it is, then God takes up residence in you.
Romans 8:10 says, “Christ is in you.” “Christ is in you.” First Corinthians chapter 3, verse 16 – Paul loved this truth – “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Then over in chapter 6, verses 19 and 20, “Do you not know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price.” Tremendously stunning truth. Second Corinthians 6:16, “We are the temple of the living God.” Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” “Christ lives in me.” Ephesians 2:22, “You are built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
How do you talk about yourself as a believer? You talk about yourself as the residence of God, the temple of God. Listen to what John says over in 1 John, building on these truths. “You are from God, little children,” verse 4, 1 John 4:4, “and have overcome them;” – Listen to this – “because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” You worry about Satan in the world? Don’t worry about Satan in the world. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” Verse 13, “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us.” How do we know that? “Because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him.” Verse 16, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
I wish we’d start talking like this, right? To abide is to remain, and for all who remain, they give evidence of a genuine salvation, and how is that defined? It is defined as God living in us. God living in us, taking up residence. Colossians 1:21 says, “You were formerly alienated” – from God – “hostile, engaged in evil deeds. He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel.” If you remain, if you stay, if you abide, He abides in you. This is an incredibly stunning reality. You think about the condescension of our Lord to take on a human body, but He took on a sinless human body. What kind of condescension is it for the triune God to take on a sinful body, take up residence in us?
Now, I want you to look at 1 Peter chapter 1, 1 Peter chapter 1, verse 3. This is a doxology really, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” All right, we’re born again, which means we have new life, divine life. We have obtained, verse 4, “an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” And we “are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
On the one hand, we persevere and remain and stay and endure. On the other hand, God keeps us. And then this most significant section, verse 6, “In this you greatly rejoice” – What? What are you rejoicing? – “for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.” Why? Why would we rejoice in trials? Why is James telling us, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials?” Why is Peter saying this? Because, that’s the proof of your faith. Your faith isn’t proven until it’s tested when something goes wrong. What happened in the parable of the soils? Tribulation, distress; the plant died out, fruitless. Deceitfulness of riches, cares of the world, trouble with problems, that’s the test.
The best thing that could possibly happen in your life as a believer is to have your faith tested, because when it’s tested and it holds, this proves its reality. The best thing that could happen is to have a disaster that is beyond your control, something outside of your power that is a trial of grave difficulty, because that’s what reveals the false. Their faith can’t survive; it collapses. But when you are distressed, who have a true faith, your faith is proven to be, “More precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, and it may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; though you have not seen, you love.”
The best thing that could happen to a believer is to have something go wrong in life, something go wrong. And the more that goes wrong, and the more times things go wrong, and the more years you experience the things that go wrong, the more your faith is tested. The more your true faith is tested, the stronger it becomes. If it’s a false faith, it collapses. So, I love that phrase, “The proof of your faith, which is more precious than fine gold.”
The greatest gift you could possibly have is to know your faith is real, right? That keeps the hope of heaven bright. That keeps the knowledge of forgiveness clear. That brings joy into your life. That takes the fear out. New Christians struggle with that. You lead someone to Christ. They’re new in the Lord, maybe days, months, years. Life is going on pretty good. They don’t have a lot of issues. They don’t have a lot of struggles. Their faith is not tested. Maybe they feel insecure. “Lord, save me. I don’t know if I’m saved. I wonder if I’m saved. Maybe I’d better pray again, try to make sure this is real.” People may do that frequently. Then a major test comes, which could shatter a false faith, a superficial confidence in God. And they go flying through that, and their faith is not weaker. It’s what? It’s stronger, and that becomes the proof that it’s a saving, enduring faith.
So the first benefit of staying is everlasting salvation. You’re on your way to heaven. You’re on your way to be found, 1 Peter 1:7, “In praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Verse 9, “You will obtain as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” I don’t want to go through life worrying about whether I’m saved, but I can’t necessarily get that confidence on my own. Some of it comes from reading Scripture, which tells me that a true faith is a lasting faith. But how do I know I have a true faith? You know you have a true faith when you have a proven faith. And the more your faith is proven, and the more you have the tests, the stronger your faith becomes, and you get this pure gold gift of the full knowledge that you’re headed for heaven.
So you say, “Abide in Me.” Why? Because, “If you abide in Me, I abide in you.” That’s how to define yourself. “I’m a Christian.” Well, what does that mean? “God lives in me. Father, Son, Holy Spirit live in me, not only in me, but in every other Christian. But in me, personally, in me.” This is beyond comprehension. This is a condescension even beyond the condescension of our Lord into a perfectly sinless body. Were it not for grace, this wouldn’t happen.
So that’s the first benefit. The second – and we’ll be able only to introduce this – is fruitfulness. Sticking with the metaphor, fruitfulness. Go back to verse 4, “Abide in Me, and I in you.” “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches.” Don’t forget that. “He who abides in Me and I in him” – there it is again – “in him” – I in him, I in him – “he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
All right. This is sequential, isn’t it? If you’re a true believer, if you’re an abiding branch, then Christ is in you. He is in you. He lives in you, and the result of that is manifest fruit. You will bear fruit. Verse 2, you will bear more fruit when you are pruned. What’s that? Providential trials, troubles, tribulations that we talked about. You will bear fruit. You will bear more fruit. Verse 5, you will bear “much fruit.” Verse 8, “The Father is glorified when you bear much fruit,” and look at verse 8, “and prove to be My disciples.” So, what’s the proof that you’re a true branch? Fruit. Part of that fruit is the fruit of endurance, patience through trials.
There’s a negative in verse 4, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” That’s stating it negatively. Then it’s stated positively, the same thing, in verse 5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit,” and then back to the negative as a warning, “apart from Me you can do” – What? – “nothing.” Because you can’t accomplish the work of God in human strength. The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly.
Romans 7, Paul picks up this same idea in verse 4: “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” – that we might bear fruit for God – “for while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.” If you are in Christ, you bear fruit for God. If you’re not in Christ, you bear dead fruit – lifeless, useless.
Fruit is everywhere in the Bible. There’s a simple sort of summary statement in Philippians 1:11, I think, that tells you what it is. Paul talks about living lives that are abounding more in real knowledge and discernment and approving things that are excellent, being sincere and blameless. And then in verse 11, he says, “Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ” – who is the vine – “to the glory and praise of God” – who is the vinedresser. So what is fruit? It’s righteousness. It’s righteousness. Can’t do that without the presence of God. “In my flesh, I can do no good thing. Even my righteousness is filthy rags.”
Fruit is righteousness; and when the Trinity takes up residence in us, necessarily fruit will be produced. Righteousness will manifest itself because righteousness has taken over inside. Hosea 14:8 says, God says, “From Me is your fruit found.” “From Me is your fruit found.” Luke 6:43-44, our Lord said a good tree doesn’t bring bad fruit. A bad tree doesn’t bring good fruit. “By their fruit, you” – What? – “you know them.”
How do you prove to be a disciple? Go down to verse 8. How do you prove to be a true disciple? How do you prove you’re not a fake? How do you prove you’re not a fraud? Well, we saw: one, you remain even through the trials; but two, you bear much fruit. You bear much fruit. Fruit, yes. More fruit, verse 2. Much fruit, verses 5 and 8. Now, let me move that idea of abiding in Christ, remaining in Christ, from salvation into sanctification for a moment, and let me just kind of draw it out a little bit. You are, as a matter of reality, abiding in Christ and He is in you. But if we look a little deeper into that relationship from a sanctifying aspect, the more you abide in the presence of and the knowledge of and the love of and the obedience to Christ, the more fruitful you become.
Our Lord acknowledged this in the parable of the soils. The good soil, the seed went in, and it produced fruit, but not everybody had the same, right? Some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, some a hundredfold. We could all say, “Well look, the Trinity lives in me. The Trinity lives in me. I possess the life of God, and God manifestly demonstrates the fruit of righteousness.” And that would be true of all of us, but not to the same degree. That is why there are so many commands in the Bible, because the assumption is that we can disobey. We can cease to keep the Word, cease to love the Lord, cease to honor the Lord, cease to do His will at points in our lives that restrict our fruit bearing. Yes, we all bear the fruits of righteousness, but we don’t all have much fruit, and we all need to have more fruit.
We say, “How do you do that?” Well, it’s not a matter of human effort. It’s about abiding in Christ. Now, let me make a simple point out of this. The more you focus on Christ, the more fruitful you become. The more you focus on yourself, the less fruitful you become. Lose yourself in the glory of Christ. That’s 2 Corinthians 3:18. As you gaze at His glory, you move from one level of glory to the next to the next to the next by the Holy Spirit, until you literally become like Him. Yes, yes, we battle against sin. Yes, we war against the flesh. Yes, we beat our body into submission so that we’re not cast away. Yes, we’re zealous for virtue and holiness and purity. But all of that is in response to the vision of Christ that keeps expanding and becoming larger and richer and more glorious.
I just don’t know how Christians sitting in churches where Christ is not constantly exalted, I just don’t know how they survive the shallows of their sanctifying experiences. Fruit comes by abiding. All Christians, true Christians, abide. All who abide have Christ and God and the Spirit abiding in them. They all then become fruit-bearing trees. They produce deeds of righteousness, attitudes of righteousness, words of righteousness, but not all to the same degree. The degree depends upon the level of our commitment, which depends upon our affection for understanding of Christ.
Let’s pray. Lord, we’re very grateful for the opportunity to be together this morning and to worship You and to fellowship with each other. So thankful, thankful for our church, thankful for all You’re doing here, for children, young people, adults, senior adults, families, single people, for all the truth that rings through this church all day, every day – and especially on this day. And Lord, we pray that it would all lift up Christ, that it would all exalt Christ, that we might find our all in all in Him; that we might be able to say, “Christ is all in all to us.” Therein lies the key to more fruit; much fruit is being lost in wonder, love, and praise, seeing the vision of Christ in all His beauty and glory. And putting on display that fruit, we assure our own hearts of salvation, and we assure others of your transforming power. We pray that we might be a people of much fruit, much fruit, that the world may see and know and glorify You. Enrich us by Your Word as it settles in our hearts. Father, help us, help us to abide in such a way that we bear much fruit so that You receive the glory. These things we ask for the sake of the One who loved us and gave Himself for us, even Christ. Amen.
I feel disenfranchised with last month’s vote because of such apparent widespread voter fraud in six key swing states. But the media—et tu, Fox News?—says, “There’s nothing to see here. Time to move along.” As of this writing, 40 court decisions seem to agree with them.
Thank God for the alternative media which is a lifeline of information, which big tech, big media, and the cultural elites are doing their best to suppress. But you can’t suppress the truth forever.
A congresswoman from Florida says that Trump’s attempts to expose allegations of voter fraud are undermining our nation.
Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida), whose family fled Vietnam in the late 1970s, is a U. S. Representative in the greater Orlando area. She said, “My family fled a communist dictatorship, so I’ve never taken America’s democracy for granted. The President’s claims of election fraud are discredited and dangerous, nothing more than a cynical attempt to subvert the will of the American people.”
She was responding to this tweet (12/1/20) from NPR that said the election was fair and not stolen. NPR Politics: “‘This was a secure election,’ Christopher Krebs, the former top federal government election security official, said. ‘That is a success story. That is something everyone in the administration should be proud of.’”
•Forget those suitcases captured on video brought out in the middle of election night in Atlanta, presumably chock full of Biden ballots.
•Forget all those dead people that voted in Pennsylvania—even people who lived through the Civil War.
•Forget the Detroit Democrat poll-workers who muscled Republicans out of the room in the middle of the night and then taped up the windows so no one could see what was going on.
Gary Bauer notes (12/3/20): “…in numerous progressive cities, left-wing operatives systematically threw out GOP observers one by one. The vote counters, who are government employees, often erupted in applause as the conservatives were shown the door.”
Forget all that—nothing to see here. Time to move on. To question the mainstream media’s coronation of Joe Biden as president is “dangerous,” says Rep. Murphy.
Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis have held hearings providing all sorts of evidence of voter fraud that took place primarily in the wee hours of the early morning of November 4 in key swing states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona.
Regardless of one’s opinions on Donald Trump, I would think virtually all Americans of good will would oppose election fraud. Election security is critical.
Giuliani said, “I would never have my name associated with something false.”
I showed my wife a compilation of highlights of the Giuliani-Ellis Michigan hearings of alleged voter fraud. After a while, she almost wept, wondering how this could happen in her adopted country? She was originally from Norway and gladly became a U. S. citizen many years ago.
Democracy is messy. But to ensure voter integrity, it’s worth sorting through this mess.
One man noted, “If we don’t root out the fraud…we don’t have a country anymore.” That was Al Gore in 2000. But in the case of Al Gore’s challenge of Bush’s victory—which was predicated on Bush’s taking Florida—Bush won every single vote recount in Florida. Every single one, even those conducted by liberal (anti-Bush) newspapers, like The New York Times.
Jenna Ellis said “We’re a nation of rules, not a nation of rulers.” Ellis referred Americans to look up Federalist #68, which I did. This “Federalist Paper” was written by Alexander Hamilton, and he states: “…every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption.” He calls these underhanded deeds the “most deadly adversaries of republican government.”
Was there a cabal at work in the wee hours on the day after the election to bring in bundles of thousands of votes for Biden in the key swing states?
Twenty congressmen are demanding voter integrity, especially after they saw the footage of the Georgia suitcases. They wrote an open letter (12/4/20) to Bill Barr with this lead: “Dear Attorney General Barr, Two pillars of a successful republic are election integrity and confidence in our democratic processes.” [Emphasis theirs]
Gary Bauer notes (12/6/20), “After the election, a shocking 70% of Republicans don’t believe the 2020 election was free and fair. That number is up from 35% prior to the election. And another poll revealed that a surprising 30% of Democrats believe it is likely the election was stolen from President Trump! These figures undermine confidence in our electoral process.”
Congresswoman Murphy is wrong. Until the many allegations—including more than a thousand affidavits where many people (including Democrats) report on the cheating they themselves witnessed on behalf of the Biden campaign—have their day in court, it is not “dangerous” to explore these accusations. It is dangerous not to.
Everyone’s talking about a “new normal” when the coronavirus saga is over. But that makes me wonder, so what was the “old normal”? What did we believe in and rely on that we shouldn’t any more?
What will you do when the Covid-19 restrictions get lifted?
Of course, this is going to be a gradual process. But as the restrictions get lifted one by one, we will have more and more freedom to do what we have not been able to do in the past two weeks.
What will you do when that happens? Will you rush down to the first bubble tea shop you can find? Will you head for the nearest fast-food outlet or hawker centre where you can finally eat there and then? Will you make an appointment for that much-needed hairdo? Or will you make a beeline for your favourite mall, knowing that you can finally indulge in some shopping that doesn’t involve home delivery?
I must confess that some of these things came to mind first as I read about the restrictions being lifted. I’ve been looking forward to having an unhurried cup of kopi at my neighbourhood coffeeshop, with some half-boiled eggs and kaya toast, of course. But I realise there’s something I’ve been missing even more—being able to greet someone, give him a smile, and have a little chat . . . not through a mask nor Zoom.
A friend of mine, journalist and author Nicholas Yong, penned a short but wonderfully whimsical piece about what he would do “When All This Is Over”. He writes:
When all this is over, the first thing I will do is take a long, long walk. I will greet everyone I meet along the way and shake their hands, and grab their forearms, and look into their eyes. No more fear in my heart, lurking just beneath the surface. No more social distancing or alternative greetings: I want to talk to people the way human beings are meant to . . .
When all this is over, I will hug the ones I love, and even the ones I don’t. And though it is a miraculous and wondrous thing, I don’t ever want to talk to the people who matter most through a video screen again. Whether they are next door or a million miles away, I will meet them and tell them, face to face, just how much they mean to me. I’ve missed you, I will say. I thought of you every day.
Nicholas has been tracking the whole saga as a journalist. Yet it’s the personal touches that have left the biggest mark on him:
But when all this is over, I know what I will remember most. A bag of groceries left at the door when I was in quarantine and couldn’t leave my flat. A homemade meal delivered to me, just because a friend did not want me to feel all alone. And most of all, the simple text messages saying ‘Just checking in. How are you?’
When all this is over, I will treasure the little things with all my heart. Because it is the little things that make up the big things, and I never want to take them for granted again.
Over the past weeks, we’ve been hearing phrases like, “Life will never be the same again after Covid-19”, or, “There will be a new normal”.
Granted, many of us will be struggling with what this means for us in our daily lives. Perhaps many of us will be working or studying at home more. Perhaps we will have to remember to wash our hands more often. Perhaps we will have to be careful when meeting in large groups—such as in church. We will have to change the way we work, move, and interact with people.
But when the Circuit Breaker finally ends, and when all this is over, what will we do?
In the book of Haggai, God reminds the Israelites that they had neglected God and His house while seeking their own comfort (Haggai 1:2–4). That was why, He said, they never seem to be satisfied with what they did (v. 6). God told them: “Give careful thought to your ways” (v. 5).
When all this is over, will we continue to focus on our own needs, concerns, and desires? Or will we, as Christians, seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness? (Matthew 6:33) Will we be grateful for what we’ve taken for granted and learn to give what we have been receiving? Will we give a passer-by a big smile, visit a lonely relative, buy something for a neighbour in need, and tell them that we miss them and care just as God cares for us?
Lord, thank You for being with me throughout this time. As the restrictions get eased, may I go back to “normal life” with a new perspective of Your heart and a new commitment to put You first in my life—to love You and to love others, just as You have loved me.
Leslie Koh spent more than 15 years as a journalist in The Straits Times before moving to Our Daily Bread Ministries. He’s found moving from bad news to good news most rewarding, and still believes that nothing reaches out to people better than a good, compelling story. He likes eating (a lot), travelling, running, editing, and writing.
Are you a believer who goes to church or who goes to the presence of The Almighty God?
Many go to church and stay either religious or get disinterested, eventually isolating themselves into a backslidden state. These are they who fall for the worldly narrative about life and god rather than the biblical narrative through the unction of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, many spirit baptised believers have entered into a rut, unable to experience the love of God anymore.
Of the many things we receive in the presence of God, here are three the Psalmist says in Psalms 16:11;
What can we find in the presence of God?
“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: when we surrender ourselves in the holy presence of God, we discover our true states (Isaiah 6:5). Which further enables us to choose the right path in life. The path of Jesus.
in thy presence is fulness of joy: this is no philosophical or motivational talk, this is the real joy. A joy that is supernatural which flows into our hearts to live and thrive in Christ daily.
at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”: there are earthly pleasures which are temporary and perishable, and then there is heavenly pleasures which is forever. Only God can carry His children into eternal life, through Jesus Christ His Son.
When we do not let God’s perspective govern our lifestyle we are still dead. Just because you filled in the anointing on Sunday doesn’t mean you are fine.
Are you obedient to His word? Do not confuse gifts with fruits. Fruit is a result of your freedom walk with God, it’s expected of you. Unlike gifts which manifest when God desires.
Love the presence of God, be it in personal prayer, bible study or fellowship. Let God transform your life forever. Maranatha, praise God and amen.
Here’s the second part of the 6 things that are better than Sacrifice; based on what the Word of God teaches us.
Yes. This is another important aspect that the Lord desires from our lives. He wants us to be faithful and loyal to Him. Why not? The Lord Himself is faithful to us every single day. He keeps His Word and fulfils them as well. As His children, God wants that we too learn to be loyal to Him and to His Word.
For I desire and delight in [steadfast] loyalty [faithfulness in the covenant relationship], rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6.
Growing in the knowledge of God is very important for followers of Christ. The knowledge of the Holy is understanding. Proverbs 9:10. There is no point in calling oneself a follower of Jesus, if that person does not know His Saviour and what He’s done for him/her.
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6.
Walk humbly with God
To fear God and keep God’s commandment is the whole duty of man — for as long as he is alive. Without doing this, how much ever a person may offer sacrifice and offerings to God, there is no point in it! Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Caleb, the Spirit baptised apostles and believers all walked humbly with God.
Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:6-8